A healthier, more fit and longer life is within your grasp. A significant amount of research shows that exercise is the magic ingredient for a better quality of life.
Regular exercise aids in weight loss and helps with weight maintenance, it increases bone density and general strength, reduces your risk for several chronic diseases and conditions, and helps to reduce stress levels. No matter your fitness level there is a place to begin for everyone. The key to exercise is finding what you enjoy and making it part of your daily routine.
Research has confirmed that any amount of exercise, at any age, is beneficial. In general, the more you do the greater the benefits. The National Academy of Sciences has recommended that everyone strive for a total of an hour per day of physical activity. Sounds like a lot, but the hour can be made up of several shorter bursts of activity done throughout the day, and is not limited to the gym and sports alone. Depending on your fitness level, it can even be regular life activities such as walking, gardening, or heavy house cleaning.
Physical activity is an essential part of any weight-loss program in order to maximize your fat loss while keeping valuable muscle mass. But exercise has many other health and longevity benefits. It can help prevent or improve these conditions:
1. Heart Disease. Regular activity strengthens your heart muscle; lowers blood pressure; increases "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs) and lowers "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs); enhances blood flow; and helps your heart function more efficiently. All of these benefits reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Researchers at Duke University suggest that the amount of physical activity, rather than its intensity, has the biggest impact on improving blood cholesterol.
2. Stroke. According to a study published in the journal Stroke, moderately active study participants had 20% less risk of stroke than less active participants.
3. Type II Diabetes. This disease has increased by 62% since 1990, and 17 million Americans now have it. Physical activity can enhance weight loss and help prevent and/or control this condition. Losing weight can increase insulin sensitivity, improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce blood pressure – all of which are very important to the health of people with diabetes.
4. Obesity. Overweight and obese conditions can be prevented or treated with exercise along with a healthy diet. Activity helps to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass, thus improving your body's ability to burn calories. The combination of reduced calories and daily exercise is the ticket to weight loss. Controlling obesity is critical, as it is a major risk factor for many diseases, and is the leading cause of joint pain and degeneration, especially in the knees.
5. Back Pain. Back pain can be managed or prevented with a fitness program that includes muscle strengthening and flexibility. Having good posture and a strong abdomen is the body's best defense against back pain.
6. Osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bone formation and helps prevent the osteoporosis or bone loss often seen in women after menopause. Combining a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D with regular weight-bearing exercise maximizes results.
According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, data from the Nurses' Health Study showed that women who walked four or more hours per week had 41% fewer hip fractures than those who walked less than an hour a week.
7. Psychological Benefits. Improved self-esteem is one of the top benefits of regular physical activity. While exercising, your body releases brain chemicals called endorphins that improve your mood and the way you feel about yourself, and provide an increase in energy. Exercise can also help you cope with stress and ward off depression and anxiety.
These are just a few of the ways exercise improves your health. If you are thinking about getting started on a fitness program I recommend consulting with a professional who can guide you towards reaching your health goals.